Empirical Explorations

Form, Function, and Feeling: Exploring the Aesthetic Experience of Spatial Volume, Contours, and Symmetry in Architecture

As we ventured into Architectural Neuroaesthetics, we noticed a disparity between the aesthetic potential of geometry as an artefact and its functional affordances in everyday spaces (Gibson, 1978). We bridged this gap by examining the immersive, evaluative, and affective potential of architectural geometry. Based on an extensive literature review, we considered three geometric variables - contours, symmetry, and spatial volume and presented them in Virtual Reality and 360˚ videos and measuring aesthetic responses as - collative properties (Berlyne, 1970), reactive aesthetic emotions (arousal and pleasure) as well as perceived affordances.

Two experiments were conducted; the first experiment (N = 20) aimed to identify the latent relationships amongst the dependent variables as well as compare the immersive potential of geometry using two different media types for the experience. The findings indicated that geometry evoked aesthetic appraisal or evaluation (collative properties and arousal) and affective engagement (pleasure and affordances). VR and 360˚ videos as media types were not different in their potential for aesthetic immersion; validating the scope for 360˚ videos as an accessible and affordable media format for experiments investigating architectural experience.

Furthermore, the second experiment (N= 100) used the more accessible but sufficiently immersive media type, 360˚ videos, to elaborately investigate the main and interaction effects of geometric variables - spatial volume, contours, and symmetry on aesthetic responses. All three geometric variables had significant main effects while spatial volume had significant two-way interaction effects on aesthetic responses as well.

These findings highlight the overarching relevance of spatial volume; we encourage future experiments to investigate it as a continuous variable using 360˚videos to establish its relationship with aesthetic responses in greater detail and considerable ecological validity. We foresee the relevance of these findings in the future of aware and responsive architectural design.

Supervisor: Karina J. Linnell, PhD | Department of Psychology.

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